The Lower Mainland’s “best places”, crime and taxes

Oak Bay, British Columbia, rated #3 in the 2017 MoneySense.com “best places in Canada” rankings

Our 2015 review of the “best places to live in Canada” rankings from MoneySense.com has consistently been our most-visited page.

The rankings, now updated for 2017, emerge from a complicated formula that combines weather, local employment and incomes, crime rates, tax rates and much else.

Vancouver Island is well represented near the top of the 2017 list, with four communities in the top 15. However, British Columbia’s warm, rainy climate does not qualify as “nice weather,” and, overall, the ranking formula comes up with results that will surprise some visitors. For example, Weyburn, Saskatchewan — a small, somewhat remote town with very cold winters — ranks higher than any city in Greater Vancouver or the Fraser Valley.

The MoneySense.com 101-point scoring system is explained on a methodology page. Various measures of income and wealth take up the biggest chunk of the available points. Crime may be a critical concern for some people, but it accounts for just 7 scoring points. The number of people using transit is worth up to 5 points, and the combined number of people who walk or cycle is worth up to 6 points. Property tax totals are scored at 1 point or less.

I’ve posted a few results for the Fraseropolis region in a matrix below, comparing the national ranking for selected cities to median household income, crime rates and property tax figures. All of the high-ranking cities in the Vancouver region are affluent, but not all affluent cities (e.g. Richmond) are high-ranking.

For 2017, MoneySense has recognized that not everyone has the same priorities. Users can now play with the formula online to give extra weight to their own preferences and create their own rankings. These rankings, as with the the default MoneySense rankings, may provoke some interesting discussion and debate. The underlying data is actually more informative than the rankings, and worth exploring. In the end, however, the quality of individual neighbourhoods is probably more important than washed-together numbers for large cities taken as a whole.

The MoneySense property tax amounts appear to be based on a “property taxes per person” calculation, which in my view is academic. On the chart above I have added figures from the Government of B.C. on average property taxes and charges for the representative house.

The Metro Vancouver suburb of Maple Ridge, our home town and a place that comes in for occasional knocks on this site, is ranked nationally at 119.

The 417th or bottom-ranked community in Canada is Colchester, Nova Scotia, with a median household income of $61,903, lower property taxes than any of the cities shown in our table, and a violent crime index about one-third that of the City of Vancouver.

 

Gun battles and crime stats in Greater Vancouver

Premier Clark, centre, with B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Morris and Surrey police

Premier Clark, centre, with B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Morris and Surrey police

On April 15, 2016, Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia announced a $23 million dollar boost to its “Guns and Gangs” strategy in response to the “frequency and public nature of recent gang shootings.”

The money is to go wherever it’s needed, but the first-named community in the government announcement and the TV reports was Surrey. Periodic violence in Surrey has overshadowed other news from B.C.’s second-largest city at least since the 2014 local election campaign. On April 18, CTV News published an interactive map showing the locations of 33 shootings that had taken place in Surrey since New Year’s Day. Continue reading

MoneySense.ca “best places to live” rankings, 2015

Oceanfront houses, Delta

Oceanfront houses, Delta

[This post refers to the MoneySense.ca community rankings for 2015. We posted a link to the updated rankings in July, 2017.]

MoneySense.ca, “Canada’s top personal finance magazine,” has posted a list of the “Best Places to Live” in Canada, ranking 209 cities and towns on a 103-point scale.

Top marks for 2015 go to Boucherville, Quebec, a south-shore suburb of Montreal, while New Glasgow in Nova Scotia comes last, making it either the 209th-Best or the Worst Place to Live in Canada. Continue reading

Federal policing and local priorities in B.C.’s Lower Mainland

As of July 1, all affected B.C. municipalities have signed on to a new 20-year policing contract with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Some local leaders remain fearful that the new deal exposes local taxpayers to surprise cost increases.

I have a different concern (predictably): could this contract  have done a better job of enabling local input on policing practices?  Is that option still open to us? Continue reading

B.C. police boards and community engagement

Of the 28 municipalities in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, 22 are served by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police under a  federal-provincial-municipal contract. Six  cities have local police departments governed by citizen boards.  We’re talking about Abbotsford, the City of Vancouver, West Vancouver, Port Moody, Delta and New Westminster.

The latest B.C. Government survey of police operations finds about 2,040 Mounties  doing local policing in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley District compared with 1,940 city police.  There’ve been recent concerns about the RCMP on several scores; the city police departments and their citizen boards offer an alternative model for organizing and governing police services. Continue reading

Marijuana grow-ops and their neighbours

At the Liberal Party of Canada’s  national policy convention last weekend, 77 per cent of delegates voted in favour of a youth wing resolution to legalize marijuana.  In part, the vote reflects frustration  that our expensive yet half-hearted efforts at prohibition leave  communities exposed to  unreasonable risk.

Despite ongoing efforts to identify and shut them down, we had an estimated 18,000   illegal indoor marijuana grow operations in summer 2011 in British Columbia alone.  In other words, about one in every 120 dwellings shelters a grow-op.  A 2004 publication for Canadian realtors lists the costs for the wider community: a heightened risk of structural fires, chemical spills, increased violent crime and property crime, and the signficant theft of electric power, which BC Hydro values at $100 million per year in this province.  This is aside from the costs imposed on individuals when they unwittingly purchase a former grow-op.  Continue reading